Three years ago I mulled over the state of the religious left – as seen by media figures who were just beginning to notice there WAS such a thing, political observers who doubted its viability, and conservative figures eager to demean and undermine it. Two recent studies show that the religious left is very much alive and kicking. A study from the University of Florida reports that the religious left “is closing the so-called ‘god gap” (the theory that white religious Christians are inevitably conservative and Republican) and is likely to have increasing electoral visibility and influence during the Obama administration. The 2009 Religious Activist Surveys (by the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics) finds “strikingly different religious profiles” (in terms of issue positions and priorities… would it be impolite to say “duh”?) between the religious left and right, but finds that at the same time activists in both camps are “deeply religious,” cite faith as a factor in their voting, and are equally engaged (albeit in slightly different ways) in political activism.
Charlotte Allen wrote her LA Times rant about the impending death of liberal Christianity in 2006. (The direct link to her article seems to be broken, but my old blog entry has some excerpts, as does this link.) ‘Course she didn’t say exactly when we’d meet our demise, and as we approach the end of 2009, Kenneth Wald, one of the authors of the University of Florida study, is declaring “we’re in an age where we’re likely to see a flowering of the religious left.” But other observers think the religious left will lose relevance by being too quick to compromise on core positions, in order to curry favor with a religious right that never gives an inch. Here’s Peter Laarman:
Health care reform provides a good case in point. A significant part of the conservative community is determined to insert a hard prohibition on federal abortion funding into the final reform legislation—a provision that will remove existing access to abortion services from the insurance plans of millions of women. Conservatives unhesitatingly frame this as an issue of fundamental conscience. In response, many good liberals bite their tongues and go along for the sake of the supposed greater good of achieving universal coverage.
The silencing of a progressive religious voice for the sake of creating an imaginary common ground is also evident in the informal agreement to remove entire issues—marriage equality, for example—from the table. Whereas abortion can be admitted to the conversation on the right’s terms, equal rights for sexual minorities cannot be admitted at all. The religious right’s position, “we’re not even going to discuss this,” becomes tacitly accepted by everyone else.
When the left compromises, the “goalpost” moves rightward:
…some notably sex-phobic evangelical and Roman Catholic individuals and entities have been rebranded as the progressive forces watch, while actual progressives (solidly feminist and pro-LGBTQ religious leaders) have disappeared from view.
Interesting point. Are religious lefties more open to compromise? (Is it that difference in neural wiring, again?) Are we fatally attracted to it? Will it be our undoing?
Just thought I’d toss this stuff in the mix, while co-blogger abc41 has us thinking about what religious progressives believe.
(Updated to fix my co-blogger’s tag.)